Category Archives: 360 degree feedback

The best time for 360 degree feedback

Many organizations are conducting 360 degree feedback at the end of their annual review process. This is probably not providing much value and isn’t a great idea for a number of reasons.

The main reason is that people are focused on the outcome of their end of year review – their bonus or salary increase. It’s difficult to get someone focused on identifying their areas for improvement and creating development goals when you’re also talking to them about their salary increase or bonus.

Another reason 360 isn’t a good idea as part of the end of year review is that it’s not a review of past performance. Running it at this time of year creates an unavoidable perception that 360 is all about reviewing how well you performed. It isn’t – 360 degree feedback is simply a way of identifying a person’s behaviours. And that gives you two key things needed to coach someone for improvement. A way of providing feedback on behaviours and a measurement to gauge improvement.

So when should you run 360? The answer is at the start of the performance cycle or somewhere in the first three months. When you’re in looking forward mode and setting goals for the year. This suits 360 because you want people to look forward with the results – that is to plan how they are going to develop their areas needing improvement.

Next post

Setting SMART objectives when there’s little clarity of business goals.


Is it 360 degree appraisal or feedback?

Why do some people talk about “360 degree appraisal” instead of “360 degree feedback”. Are they talking about the same thing or are they different.

Well they are actually different. I’ve talked a fair bit about 360 degree feedback already, so let’s dive into 360 degree appraisal in this post.

My definition for 360 degree appraisal
The use of 360 degree feedback techniques to measure or rate a person’s achievements for one or more performance objectives.

This is different to 360 degree feedback which focuses on giving a person feedback on their capabilities using things like competencies, values and behaviours.

When to use 360 degree appraisal
When it comes to setting goals and objectives they have to be measurable to be effective. See writing SMART objectives for the reasons why.

But sometimes it’s difficult to work out how you can measure the outcome for an objective. For example, what do you do if there are no systems in place or if the objective just doesn’t lend itself to a hard measurement. What if there is an appropriate measure but the cost would make it impractical.

What do you do? If you don’t have a quality measure, the objective is pretty much a waste of time.

The answer is 360 degree appraisal. Use feedback from the manager, peers, direct reports and customers to rate the achievement.

An example of when it could be used
Let’s say you want to increase the number of people in a work unit who can provide a specific type of service to other groups. How would you measure it?

You could just measure the achievement based on the number of people trained to provide the service. But that’s really only measuring the action of training those people, not the outcome of people who can provide the service. Ideally you would want to measure the quality and quantity of the service.

The benefit of 360 degree appraisal here is that you can ask two types of people to appraise the outcome:

  • People affected by the service.
  • People who observe how well the service is provided.

When not to use 360 degree appraisal
If there’s a hard measure available and it’s cost effective, use it in preference over 360 degree appraisal. Especially if that measure comes from a system and you can gauge progress throughout the year using it.

For example, measuring someone on a sales objective using 360 degree appraisal would be inappropriate. Using the hard measure of their actual sales in money terms is much more effective at getting the end result you want.

David’s questions
Getting back to David, one of his questions was . . .

How do I set SMART objectives that I can clearly link to the business bottom line without necessarily having the clarity of business goals or resolution of metrics?

Something you can take away from this post is that 360 degree appraisal is an option you now have when there’s little or no resolution of metrics.

Next post…
We’re yet to look at:

12 steps to a great 360 degree feedback process

Want to implement 360 degree feedback? Here’s my quick guide to make it happen.

Step 1 – what is the purpose of the feedback
Why do it in the first place? What do you want out of it? The answer to those questions will affect the way you set-up your 360 process, how you communicate about it with your people and how you review the process down the track.

For example, here’s two common reasons:

1. As part of an ongoing performance management process.

  • Making sure your people have the capabilities needed to achieve the corporate goals.
  • Developing people to improve performance.

2. As part of a leadership development process.

  • Targeting development for participants.
  • Providing a post measure of the effectiveness of the program.

Check out my previous post – Why use 360 degree feedback in the first place.

Step 2 – gain commitment from management
Management need to be committed to the 360 degree feedback process for it to work. If they aren’t committed, your people will see this and the process won’t be effective.

Getting management to buy into it comes down to why you are doing it in the first place. A direct financial argument also helps – this’ll be the subject of a future post.

Step 3 – involve your people up front and pilot the process
Involve your people in the design of the process. Use a nice cross section of people – the ones who’ll be affected by the process.

You need:

  • To get them to buy into the reasons for doing 360.
  • To get input on how to run the process to make sure it’ll work in the real world.
  • To get input and feedback on the competencies (see step 3).

Implement 360 with a pilot group first. Get feedback and make any changes needed before going out to the wider group.

Step 4 – what competencies or values will be used
You can get feedback on almost anything including your new hair style, but the most common things are:

  • Competencies.
  • Values.
  • Behaviours.

Many organisations have a core set of competencies or values. Some also have leadership specific capabilities. And those who have advanced to Jedi level use role specific competencies.

Where do you get the competencies from? There’s heaps of libraries. And if you use a software package to do your 360s it may already have one.

Choose the competencies that will support your corporate goals. Use around seven competencies all up.

The competencies will form a questionnaire that feedback providers will complete. Decide on a rating scale to use with the questionnaire. The competency library you use will probably suggest one.

Step 5 – who will provide coaching – they may need to be trained
When your people eventually receive their feedback they’ll need someone to help them understand it and to create a plan to develop areas needing improvement. This person needs to be skilled at coaching. It is usually a person’s manager, someone from HR or a coaching professional.

If you want your managers to provide coaching and they aren’t skilled in this area, they’ll need some training.

Step 6 – communicate with your people – let them know why and how
Let your people know these things:

  • That a new process called 360 degree feedback is being implemented.
  • Why it is being implemented – see step 1.
  • What it is.
  • How it will work.
  • What they will get out of it.
  • What they need to do.

Step 7 – who will receive feedback and who will provide it
Alright now you need to determine who is going to receive feedback – the people being reviewed. Once this is done, the feedback providers need to be selected. There are two ways this is typically done . . .

  1. The employee nominates their own reviewers and gets their manager’s approval.
  2. The manager nominates the reviewers.

Employee nomination is better – why – because people take more notice of feedback from people they know well and respect. At first your people may not get the whole idea of what the feedback process does for them. So the manager approval process is needed to make sure people don’t kid themselves by choosing buddies to give them feedback.

Step 8 – ask people to provide feedback
The next step is to ask the reviewers to provide feedback. They do this by responding to a questionnaire and providing any written comments.

It’s also essential that a person completes a self review. This really helps a person identify gaps between how they see themselves and how they are perceived by others.

Step 9 – follow-up and collate feedback
Collate responses for each person receiving feedback. Follow-up with stragglers to make sure they respond before the deadline.

Step 10 – produce reports
A report is produced for each person receiving feedback. This helps them understand the feedback provided by each of their reviewers.

Responses from each of the reviewers, except managers, are generally aggregated. This protects anonymity and makes sure that an individual’s responses can’t be identified. So for example, instead of seeing each direct report’s individual response, you’ll see an average of all direct report responses.

Manager responses aren’t normally anonymous. In other words a person would be able to see exactly what feedback their manager provided.

Step 11 – provide coaching
The report is provided to the person receiving feedback as part of a coaching and development process. This should be done by someone skilled at coaching – this could be the person’s manager, someone from HR or a coaching professional.

The report is used to help the person identify, understand and gain confidence in their strengths. It’s also used to highlight opportunities for improvement and areas for development.

The coach helps the person create a plan to develop their capabilities. The person undertakes the development with progress being reviewed as part of the coaching process.

Step 12 – post implementation review
After your pilot program and after the first full 360 degree feedback process, conduct a post implementation review. The purpose of this review is to determine:

  • Whether the feedback is producing the result you wanted.
  • Where improvements can be made to the process.

And finally . . .
360 degree feedback can be a time consuming process if done manually. So how do you get the benefits without the admin overhead?  The answer is technology.  Cognology have developed a simple to use online 360 degree feedback system that automates the process so you can focus on the results.

In the next set of posts . . .
I’ll continue my exploration of 360 in order to fully respond to David’s questions. We’ll look at:

  • What is 360 degree appraisal.
  • The best time to run 360.
  • Setting SMART objectives when there’s little clarity of business goals.

Thanks to Edylyn for the questions to my post – what is 360 degree feedback. Look forward to hearing how it all goes.

Why use 360 degree feedback in the first place

The need for 360
An organisation starts off with a goal to achieve something. To reach that goal they need a plan. Turning that plan into action and achieving the outcome requires people. But not just any people. The organisation needs people with specific capabilities. And the more capable they are, the more capable the organisation is!

By capabilities I mean both technical skills and things like the ability to lead and communicate well.

Alright, once the organisation identifies the capabilities needed to achieve its goals, the next question is . . . do we have those capabilities? This is actually an ongoing question – people leave, retire and are promoted.

There’s a number of ways of answering this question. All with varying degrees of accuracy. Some very inexpensive and some very costly.

For example, you could ask managers to assess their staff as part of the annual review. This is inexpensive to do, but suffers from quite a few problems – the biggest of which is that it’s one perception and potentially highly inaccurate as a result. What a manager sees an employee as being able to do (or not do) could be very different to what the person’s peers, customers and direct reports see.

Enter 360 degree feedback. It’s inexpensive and is a lot more accurate. That’s essentially what it comes down to – it’s a good tool for the job.

So once the organisation knows what capabilities it does and doesn’t have, it needs to fill the gaps. There’s two ways of doing this:

  1. Recruit people.
  2. Develop people internally.

Buying in skills can work well, but is difficult when there’s a shortage of skilled people. Plus it can be costly for new recruits to build the knowledge of internal systems within a company. So a combination of the two approaches is used.

It turns out that 360 degree feedback is also really useful for developing people. It identifies precisely where the development is needed so you don’t end up wasting a huge amount of money on training that people don’t need. And it also provides something that’s needed for effective development – a measure of progress and achievement.

David’s questions
This is the third post to answer the questions asked by David in response to 5 tips for writing objectives that produce results.

There’s a few of reasons for going into detail on 360:

  1. To make sure we’re talking about the same thing.
  2. To describe it for others who may not be familiar with it.
  3. To provide the foundation for my suggestions for David.

So what are those suggestions at this point?

  • From the previous posts and this one, something really stands out – his organisation needs a clear set of goals for the year.
  • These goals then drive employee objectives and the competencies used in the 360 process.
  • David may not be able to persuade his organisation to do this on his own – but he can develop some goals for his group.
  • SMART objectives can be used to lift performance and remove annual review headaches.
  • The 360 degree feedback process needs to be done at a time other than the end of year review.
  • The results of the feedback should not affect pay/bonuses.
  • Open-ended questions can be used to get some useful feedback on areas that need to be developed.

From the comments to the previous post it’s clear that David’s company needs to review their reasons for doing 360 in the first place. It’s not being used to address the need described in this article.

In the next set of posts . . .
We’ll be looking at:

  • How 360 degree feedback works.
  • What is 360 degree appraisal.
  • The best time to run 360.
  • Setting SMART objectives when there’s little clarity of business goals.

What is 360 degree feedback

The definition
360 degree feedback is a process for providing a person with structured feedback from a group of people who have a range of different perspectives.

For example, a manager can receive feedback on their leadership, communication and planning & organising capabilities from their direct reports, peers, their own manager and possibly internal and external customers.

Now what I think about 360
It is a gift. It’s like asking people to help you become more successful and them saying, OK sure.

You know how you can always see things in others that they can’t see themselves. You can see things that they’re good at and sometimes you wonder why they don’t put them to better use. Other times you can see things in people that are holding them back. You wonder why they can’t see those things themselves. If only they did such and such they would be so much more successful – why don’t they do it.

Well, we have a single perception of ourselves and we can’t see outside that. It stops us from seeing those things that others see in us.

360 degree feedback is all about breaking through that single perception to help you be more successful. It’s about giving you confidence in your abilities, seeing the strengths that other people recognise. And it’s about identifying the areas where you can develop and grow – the things that’ll help you be more successful.

360 degree feedback is like being Mel Gibson in the movie What Women Want. Being able to see himself as others saw him and benefiting as a result.

Getting back to David’s questions
This is the second post in a multi-part article where I’m addressing the questions raised by David in response to my post on 5 tips for writing objectives that produce results.

Last post we looked at the problem of 360 degree feedback becoming a replacement for quality objectives.

In this post I’ve talked briefly about what 360 is capable of doing. What would be great to know – if David is willing to comment on it – is how 360 is seen by himself and the people he’s working with? Is it helping him to be more successful?

When David says “360 has become a crutch because KPIs are almost always vague and unmeasurable” – I suspect that like many organisations 360 is being used as quasi assessment or performance review tool. This is largely a problem of perception. But it isn’t helped by the majority of companies who run it as part of the end of year review. This is the wrong time to use 360.

Coming up . . .
To continue shedding light on the answers to David’s questions, in the next series of posts we’ll be looking at:

  • The need for 360 degree feedback and how it works
  • What is 360 degree appraisal.
  • The best time to run 360.
  • Setting SMART objectives when there’s little clarity of business goals.

Revealing insights into 360 degree feedback

This is the first of a multi-part article where I’ll address the questions raised by David in response to my post on 5 tips for writing objectives that produce results. Here’s a summary of what he had to say . . .

  • He finds 360 degree feedback orders of magnitudes better than the traditional methods.
  • But the implementation in his company limits the true potential.
  • He believes the way they are using 360 allows managers to avoid providing constructive feedback.
  • It has become a crutch because KPIs are almost always vague and unmeasurable.
  • David wants to know how to tie 360 degree feedback to personal and company KPIs.

I think it’s great that David has identified problems with his organisation’s current process and is looking for solutions. So to respond to David’s comments I’m going to post a few articles over the coming weeks on various 360 degree feedback topics. In the process the answers to David’s questions will be illuminated.

360 degree feedback has become a crutch
OK in this post I want to focus on one of the really interesting parts of David’s comments. He says 360 degree feedback has become a crutch because KPIs are almost always vague and not measurable.

The first point I need to make here is that writing good quality KPIs is the most important part of the whole performance process. Everything else is next to useless if this isn’t done. People need a specific goal, otherwise they aren’t going to arrive at the right destination.

The problem with vague goals comes to a head at review time
One of the problems of using vague and unmeasurable goals occurs at review time. Because there’s no way of measuring achievements, the end result has to come down to the manager’s opinion. So your performance result rests on the way your manager feels about your performance, or their observations of your performance.

The problem for both the manager and employee here is what happens next. It’s almost inevitable . . . disagreement! The employee feels they have busted their gut for the company and the manager might agree but hasn’t seen the results they wanted. So you end up with dissatisfaction, growing cynicism, less and less engagement . . . looking for another job!

360 degree feedback
Enter 360 degree feedback. Now it’s not just your manager’s opinion. Your peers, reports and customers get input. And they provide input based on a structured set of competencies, behaviours or values. This is great. You get some useful feedback on a person’s capabilities from a range of people with differing perspectives. Very useful stuff as we’ll see in the next article.

It’s no wonder 360 has become a crutch in David’s organisation.

It’s giving them useable information that is much less subjective than the manager’s opinion on performance against objectives.

There’s something missing here though. 360 degree feedback can tell us a lot about a person’s capabilities and behaviour, but it doesn’t tell us what the person has achieved. So you end up rewarding people for their capabilities, not on outcomes. And definitely not on outcomes tied to the organisations goals.

Quality objectives
I’m sure David’s not alone here. So if you can identify with this problem, the first thing that has to happen is quality objectives. They are essential. From his comments David has come to this conclusion as well. He’s asked the question how he sets SMART objectives without the clarity of business goals and resolution of metrics. So we’ll take a look at that as part of this set of articles.

Jump in
If you haven’t already, jump in and take a look at these three articles:

To continue shedding light on the answers to David’s questions, in the next series of posts we’ll look at:

  • What is 360 degree feedback.
  • What is 360 degree appraisal.
  • The best time to run 360.
  • Setting SMART objectives when there’s little clarity of business goals.